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Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


270204211

Zimmer showing he's no cookie-cutter first-year head coach

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated August 20th at 12:49pm 272000471

If Mike Zimmer were a used car, most of us would still be kicking his tires and slowly circling him with a discerning eye.

While much is left to learn, we can deduce that he’s no cookie-cutter coach. Maybe it’s his age (58) or personality (firm but not bullying), or both, but he’s certainly comfortable in his own skin. And if the brain under that skin wants to do something that’s not in step with customary NFL thinking, so be it.

That’s an admirable form of confidence in a person who has never been a head coach before.

Zimmer clearly is in complete control and has the full attention of his players. But unlike a lot of new head coaches, he hasn’t altered his personality to achieve that end result. In training camp, he didn’t choose to break the players physically while tapping his badge and putting his boot to their necks.

When the preseason started, he played his starters for the entire first half of the second preseason game. Then he played his second quarterback for the entire second half. It was strange, but exciting and potentially productive that Zimmer apparently doesn’t believe in mop-up duties in the preseason.

Now, we’re days away from the third preseason game. Most, if not every other coach, always talks about this being the most critical preseason game. The media follows with stories about how this is the “dress rehearsal.” This is the game when the coaches game plan and the starters – even some superstars such as Adrian Peterson — play into the third quarter.

I asked Zimmer on Monday if he views the third preseason game with a heightened sense of importance.

“Honestly, no,” he said. “This is still a lot about us. We’re going to have a few more sections than we have had the last two weeks with the cards and the scout team work, but it’s still about what we do. We’ll have plenty of time to prepare for St. Louis [the regular season opener] when we get going in there. It’s more about the routine that we are going to do this week, so we get into the in-season schedule routine as opposed to really sitting down and game planning.”

Asked if he’ll game plan at all for Saturday’s game at Kansas City, he said, “About like we did the last two games.

“We look at them on tape and we will watch a little more tape on them than we have watched on the last two games, we’re not going to go in there and double [receiver Dwayne] Bowe. We are going to do what we do.”

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